Let’s Talk iOS 5 and not be impressed

Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” keynote is over and CEO Tim Cook (with friends) talked about the new roll-out of products and features.

But with all the hype around the next new iPhone – which is actually the iPhone 4S and not the iPhone 5 – did anything really amazing come out of it for users?

Our Mobile Lead Expert James Thornton already talked about how to get many of the features of iOS 5 through different apps, but since iOS 5 presents a unified package, there are something things worth noting.

Biggest iOS 5 Features

iOS 5 is announced for an October 12, 2011 release for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 3rd/4th Generation, and iPad 1st/2nd Generation.

Notifications

Basically taking a cue from Android, Notification will allow iOS users to be kept up to date on their apps, mail, and contacts. It’s nothing really outstanding and it feel like Apple is playing catch-up.

Providing a central hub for all notifications is nice though. Since I’m an Android user, I can say from personal experience it’s a great feature.

But like James said, Push 4.0 is already a great option that does essentially the same thing.

iMessage

Seeking yet again to unify all Apple products, this iOS messaging system is an ingrained application. The one standout portion is that it pushes to all devices.

If you’re carrying an iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (with the latter two connected via WiFi) though, is each device going to notify you each and every time you receive a message? This could get annoying pretty quickly for some users.

Reminders

Having a location aware to-do list is interesting. I actually like the idea. What I’m really curious about is what kind of battery usage this app will have. Consistent geo-location can be a big drain on a phone.

But yet again, James noted another app that already exists for this purpose – TaskAware Universal.

Could Apple be looking inside their own App Store to pull ideas?

Twitter

It hasn’t been a secret that Twitter would have strong integration.

There’s already a Twitter app.

There are also tons of third party Twitter apps.

#Fail

Newsstand

iBooks in the form of magazines means printed glossy pages in digital form. The question is how much do subscriptions cost and is it worth it? A noted feature however is Newstand’s ability to download new issues in the background.

Camera

The new iPhone 4S has an 8 MP camera with all these fancy tech specs and the ability to edit photos, crop, rotate, and remove red-eye, but don’t most people just use Instagram?

And again, there are existing apps for the “new” photo editing capabilities Apple just introduced.

Game Center

Apple is looking at its competitors, like Microsoft’s Achievements and PlayStation’s Trophies. The Game Center update will add achievement points, the ability to add photos, and recommendations by friends.

Game Center looks to be Apple’s attempt at making their gaming experience more social.

Safari

New improvements to Safari will include a new reader function, all device sync, and full-tabbed browsing for iPad.

Most other apps like Opera Mini and Dolphin Browser already support tabbed browsing though, so this is merely Apply playing catch-up it seems. Dolphin Browser also supports gesture browsing.

The reader function is an improvement that should have been implemented earlier. Formatting websites for viewing on the different devices is a roll-out that also should have happened already.

Mail

Mail updates add rich formatting, indentation, moving addresses and flagging. In sum, it looks like Mail got the least amount of updates.

Cards

Cards is an app included in iOS 5, but is more of an add-on than an improvement to the OS. Cards allows users to create greeting cards digitally, including adding photos, and have them physically printed and mailed through the United States Postal Service.

It costs $2.99 to print/ship a card in the United States and $4.99 to do the same globally. It’s an interesting feature, but a curious addition.

PC Free Feature

The PC Free Feature is one of the best re-announcements allowing wireless activation and iOS updates. Taking away the need to be tethered to a computer for the first activation will save users a lot of time.

iCloud

iCloud has also been discussed by Softonic editors as well. Having content accessible wirelessly is a great option, although it might seem strange that Apple is moving people away from iTunes in relation to everything other than large collections of music and apps.

iCloud will support storage of photos, documents, and a daily backup of content for iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion users. Apple also revealed that Find My iPhone would be supported through iCloud.

The new announcement for iCloud was Find My Friends. A real-time geo-location service, users can set their devices as traceable for their friends. Family and friends can track the location of each other to facilitate finding one other. The service includes temporary sharing options and privacy controls (including parental controls).

Also announced was iTunes Match, a service that will import music from other online music retailers. It will scan the library of the user, add iTunes content and upload the information for any content that isn’t in iTunes. It sounds like Apple is using its user base to expand their information library on artists.

iCloud was announced to launch at the end of October for the Unites States.

Strangely, Apple’s announcement of iOS 5 feels like a small update to the OS to support the launch of iCloud. The new features mirror a lot of previously existing third party apps and bundle them into the new OS.

Even with the reported “over 200 new features,” Apple decided to push these “notable” updates in the keynote. Thankfully iOS 5 still supports some older devices. The actual usability might be stunted as it was with the release of iOS 4, which wasn’t supported on older devices without some features turned off.

It’s obvious that Apple will see a massive amount of downloads for iOS 5 when it releases. Since the iPhone 4S will be launching with the new software, Apple will be able to claim a huge adopted user base. But unfortunately the unified bundle of applications are attempting to fill a space that already exists with third party apps.

Apple might use statistics to claim a lot of broad statements, but there’s nothing in iOS 5 that doesn’t already exist and in possibly better form.

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